If you ask Elementary North kindergarten teacher Megan Wolf what she did last summer, you may be surprised. While many of us were relaxing and enjoying time with our families, she traveled to a remote corner of Uganda to volunteer at an orphanage.
What motivated her to travel thousands of miles to a remote area? She watched a documentary on Netflix on volunteers who served in Guatemala while living on $1.00 a day. She realized that this was something she had wanted to do since she was a little girl. She used the website provided in the show to connect with The Real Uganda, an agency that offered volunteer opportunities. Soon afterwards, she was on her way to spend two weeks at Grace Day Care and Orphanage School in Uganda.
At the orphanage, she worked with children between the ages of 3 and 7, teaching English and helping with daily tasks such as cooking and cleaning. She sees her main job as playing and connecting with the children. “The children wanted to spend as much time with me as possible,” she said. “I would spend afternoons playing with them. They loved looking at pictures and were fascinated by life in America. For me, it felt like home.”
While Miss Wolf loved her experiences, she braved some tough conditions. For instance, instead of modern day toilets, the community used pit latrines. There was no running water. Rain water, which was collected in a huge basin, was used for drinking, cooking, showering and cleaning. At one point, the basin ran out of water and people had to use a nearby pond for all their water needs. As a non-governmental organization in a developing world country, the orphanage functioned with few resources. It had only just received electricity two months prior to Miss Wolf’s arrival.
But while the children had so little to speak of, they were creative and resourceful. Miss Wolf said she was amazed at how they easily turned scraps and leftover items into toys. “I recognized, even more, how much kids truly learn through playing and that made me further realize how important play is in the classroom,” she said. “I already let my kids learn through playing quite a lot.”
The experience was life-changing for Miss Wolf. “It reaffirmed my belief that we cannot take things for granted or be wasteful,” she said. “We should be grateful and appreciative that we have these opportunities here in the U.S., but we also need to use that to educate and help others in sustainable ways.”